Prisoners, sick people can't vote in Nigeria elections

Hundreds of thousands of prison inmates and sick people in hospitals may be disenfranchised as there is no provision to register them when a review of the voters’ roll begins next week, an official said on Saturday.

The review of the register will run from September 12 to 22, a representative of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Segun Adeogun, said, according to state-run Radio Nigeria.

The commission does not have the funds, the logistics and the time needed to extend the exercise to the prison inmates and those hospitalised, said the official.

However, he said, that anybody in these groups who presents himself for registration in the officially designated centres will be listed.

The voters’ register is one of the key missing elements in groundwork ahead of Nigeria’s first elections since the return of civilian rule in 1999.

All Nigerians who are at least 18 years old will be eligible to sign up during the 10 days of registration, to take place in 120 000 registration centres, officials said.

Experts estimate that Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, is home to more than 120 million people. INEC has set itself a target of registering 60 million voters.

No civilian regime has ever successfully organised a democratic transfer of power in Nigeria, and hold-ups in the voter registration process have increased tensions ahead of the polls.

Nigeria returned to democratic rule in May 1999 after more than 15 years of military regime.

Local elections were to have been held last August 10, after they were postponed in May, but were called off amid legal wrangling and after INEC failed to come up with a voters’ list.

No new date has been fixed for that poll. Presidential and state legislative elections are to be held next year, probably in April or May 2003.

Five small political parties battling to be included in upcoming elections last Tuesday launched a bid to halt the voter registration drive.

The parties filed a suit against the INEC seeking to prevent it from beginning voter registration on September 12.

They said they have not been recognised by the INEC as

registered parties despite an appeal court judgement branding their exclusion from the ballot unconstitutional.

In a suit filed at the Federal High Court in Abuja, the five demanded voter registration not go ahead until they receive 30 days notice and a full list of registration centres.

The court has fixed hearing in the suit for Tuesday, 48 hours to the commencement of the registration exercise.
- Sapa-AFP

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